The Ebb-Tide

Robert Southey

Slowly thy flowing tide
Came in, old Avon! Scarcely did mine eyes
As watchfully I roamed thy greenwood-side,
Perceive its gentle rise.

With many a stroke and strong
The labouring boatmen upward plied their oars;
Yet little way they made, though labouring long
Between thy winding shores.

Now down thine ebbing tide
The unlaboured boat falls rapidly along;
The solitaiy helmsman sits to guide,
And sings an idle song.

Now o'er the rocks, that lay
So silent late, the shallow current roars;
Fast flow thy waters on their seaward way,
Through wider-spreading shores.

Avon! I gaze, and know
The lesson emblemed in thy varying way:
It speaks of human joys that rise so slow,
So rapidly decay.

Kingdoms which long have stood,
And slow to strength and power attained at last,
Thus from the summit of high Fortune's flood
They ebb to ruin fast.

Thus like thy flow appears
Time's tardy course to manhood's envied stage;
Alas! how hurryingly the ebbing years
Then hasten to old age!